Lt Gen BNBM Prasad, SM, VSM

Physician to Late Field Marshal Manekshaw & Former Director General Hospital Services 

Indian Armed Forces

Field Marshal Manekshaw, the legendary Army Chief and the Chief Architect of the victory

in 1971 Indo-Pak War was born at Amritsar to Parsi parents on 03 April 1914 and as we 

celebrate his 109th

 birth anniversary , the grateful nation salutes him for his exceptional 

contribution as a military leader while he commanded one of the finest Army in the world 

known for bravery and sacrifice.

Young Maneksahw had all the making of a leader. As a child, he was exceptionally good at 

Mathematics and English standing first in the Senior Cambridge examination for the entire 

United Punjab Province and his ambition then was to become a Gynecologist that was to 

India’s fortune, thwarted by his doctor father who had earlier served in the British Army and 

had settled down for his medical Practice at Amritsar. Manekshaw who was in teens then,

rebelled against his father and opted for a military career, joining Indian Military Academy

at Dehradun where his outspoken nature and friendly attitude became the talk of the town.

He expressed his views boldly yet remained darling of his friends and superiors. After his 

memorable stint at this prestigious Military Academy, he was the first few lucky ones to get 

King’s commission in the British Army that had few Indian Officers and his British Instructor

there never ever imagined that one day, this gentleman cadet would send chills to the spine 

of the foe and teach the aggressor the lesson of the life time.

I971 war under General Manekshaw’s military leadership was one of its kind for Indian 

Subcontinent, gaining control of territories outside the Nation’s boundaries and carving out 

a new Nation out of a hostile and brutal neighbor. This war happened at a time when India 

had a monumental loss of her territories to Chinese aggression and 1962 military debacle 

due to political blunder of Himalayan proportions was still haunting the psyche of every 

Indian. Interestingly then Pakistan’s President General Yahya Khan was his colleague during 

their stint as staff officers of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck and at the time of partition, 

Sam Manekshaw, had parted his red James Motor Cycle to Yahya Khan who wanted to 

poses this unique two wheeler at any cost and had promised Sam that he would pay rupees 

1000 once he was in Pakistan. General Yahya thought he was smart and had outwitted his 

friend, a gentle man. Yes, Yahya Khan got the bike of his heart but he did not have the 

courtesy to repay the promised sum to Sam. Destiny has its own way and Pakistan under 

General Yahya Khan, the brutal military dictator, was dismantled by his Samaritan friend, 

who got more than what he ever imagined for his famous bike- a truncated Pakistan and

nearly 93,000 prisoners of war as a prize money.

When the refugee crisis was mounting up and several lakhs of hapless citizens of erstwhile

East Pakistan started pouring in to eastern India, it was the worst humanitarian crisis ever 

witnessed by Independent India. Then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi had no other option 

left but to wage a war against Pakistan to prevent the relentless influx of refugees. It was the 

most difficult time for India and prevailing conditions then were not conducive for an all-out 

war. Then Army Chief SHFJ Manekshaw did not buckle under pressure for agreeing to Mrs. 

Gandhi’s order for an immediate war and the most charismatic General took a firm stand

against wishes of the most powerful woman Prime Minister, reassuring her that Indian Army 

under his guidance would strike a lethal blow to Pakistan at appropriate time of his choosing, 

ensuring 200 % victory against the brutal oppressor with no ifs and buts. In all his humility 

and grace with due respect to his Prime Minister, he stood his ground like a solid rock and he 

was ready to sacrifice his illustrious career by sticking to his guns. True to his words, he did it 

in style and the historic war lasted less than 2 weeks bringing Pakistan to her knees and 

reinforcing the much needed confidence to the Indian Nation in her military abilities. 1971 

Victory against Pakistan was exceptional that could be only achieved despite many odds by 

an exceptionally outstanding General, known for his straight talk and no nonsensical 

approach. Notwithstanding US pressure and India lacking advanced weaponry, theocratic and 

autocratic Pakistan was shown the door when mighty world powers remained silent on the 

worst atrocities perpetuated on the humanity under General Niazi, the butcher of East 


Field Mrashal Manekshaw was a ‘Soldiers General’ and darling of the troops. During his 

illustrious career spanning over 4 decades in uniform, he remained compassionate and 

never harmed his subordinate. He used to proudly say that he has not punished anyone, 

even those who have been recommended for stringent punishment by senior Commanders. 

His critiques questioned his approach but his subordinate knew very well that General 

Manekshaw can never be vindictive, sacrificing a lamb for his glory. For them, he was a real 

Tiger who will fight with the might with his might and protect his tribe. This conspicuous 

attribute of his personality along with razor sharp intellect made him a super General and 

an exceptional military leader who got the best from his troops.

Contrary to easy going exteriors, late Field Marshal Manekshaw was a thorough bread 

professional and a perfectionist. He had profound depth of knowledge and human 

understanding with capacity for hard work. He told me once – “Doctor luck plays an 

important role and there is a thin line that that differentiates between being Court�martialed or becoming a Field Marshal”. He would have gone home as a Major, yet became 

a Field Marshal by his deeds though he attributed all his success to his luck. As a young 

Major while was posted at Burma during second World war, he was battling for his life with 

7 bullets damaging his body and those grievous battle injuries failed to dampen his spirits.

After recovery, he went back to the battle field with renewed energy and enthusiasm. It is 

obvious that luck favors the brave and for Sam who was always in the firing line with 

perilous risks in offing, luck had no choice but to favor the most valiant one in both letter 

and spirit. After his retirement from the service, he never aspired to occupy a high office. He 

kept away from politics and settled down for a peaceful and contended life at distant 

Coonoor, far away from Lutyen’s Delhi where he was entitled to for a bungalow. He was 

denied his pension and other perks and privileges and thanks to personal intervention of 

late President Abdul Kalam, he got his pension but it was too late.